All Hail Japanese Inventions!


Japan is a country of insane inventions. By now, you would’ve heard of intelligent toilets that proactively help to conceal awkward noises with flushing sounds, before washing your bum with water meticulously set to an optimum temperature. Alas, that’s barely the tip of an enormous and very futuristic iceberg.

All the cool inventions make me seriously wonder if there’s anything the Japanese can’t come up with. When I visit Tokyo, I find myself wishing we had some of their technologies in Singapore. From first world problems to the little inconveniences from day to day; they could really simplify our lives!

Here are 10 amazing Japanese inventions that could very well be making their way here.


1. White Goat Paper Recycler



What is it in one line: A workplace ensemble that turns used office paper into toilet paper.

Have you seen how much shredded paper a single office can produce in a week?! I feel obliged to plant trees below my HDB block to atone for it. Instead of trying to plant a forest, why not reuse the shredded paper by turning it into toilet paper? We could save up to 40 cedar trees a year, and a lot of money and grocery runs, too.


2. Hot food vending machines



What it is in one line: A vending machine that dispenses hot snacks instead of packaged food.

If you’re a student stuck on campus pulling an all-nighter, major hunger pangs at 3:00 am is the true definition of a crisis. No amount of Mamee snacks and Super Rings is gonna cut it, especially if you’re craving something piping hot to warm your cold, lifeless soul after hours of mugging.

These hot food vending machines would save the night, providing yummy fare to fill your belly and fuel you for the night ahead.


The ones in Japan dish out Takoyaki and Onigiri, but we’ve got a few in Singapore serving up local favourites like Seafood Hor Fun and Fried Rice. We could do with these in places like hospitals or factories so shift workers can get some grub at ungodly hours.


3. Intelligent Fitting Rooms



What it is in one line: A changing room from which shoppers can check available sizes and styles of the apparel without troubling the staff.

Have you ever tried on something that didn’t fit, had to awkwardly ask the staff for a different size, only to be told minutes later that it’s out of stock?

Mitsukoshi fitting rooms are a step ahead of you. They read the tags on the clothes and immediately displays product information, alternative sizes and colours. You can get the staff to bring an available item right away. No more waiting around half-naked in your underwear.


4. Robot staff




What it is in one line: Robot chefs and servers that can replace humans in preparing and serving food.

Humans are, unfortunately, not perfect. We trip over things, we fumble, we forget, we’re too heavy-handed with the salt… the very nature of our existence works against us. How can we avoid these pitfalls? That’s easy, we outsource them to robots.

With sensors and internal memory, and they can repeat the steps meticulously without deviation every time, ensuring that every plate of Hokkien Mee you order is cooked perfectly. Aren’t we all about good, consistent results here in Singapore?


5. Underground Bicycle Parking



What it is in one line: A space-saving solution that allows users to store their bicycles 11 metres deep into the ground.

Pasir Ris MRT Station is home to many, many bicycles. It’s as if owning a bike is a prerequisite of being a bonafide Pasir Ris-ian. However, there’s only so much space available, and it can sometimes be unsightly.


Japan’s answer to that is underground bike storage. Every bike is microchipped and linked to the owner’s IC card – just tap it to park or retrieve your bike in seconds! Can you imagine parking your bike with your TransitLink card at any MRT station? You never have to carry those locks around again.


6. Holographic menus



What it is in one line: Interactive menus projected on the dining table, taking the place of print menus.

At Inamo, a fusion restaurant in London, you can scroll through projected menus on a trackpad, change your ‘tablecloth’ every 5 minutes and even play games like Battleship while waiting for your meal. It’s the ultimate futuristic dining experience, and a great way to stay entertained till your food arrives .

While we don’t have it here in Singapore (yet), we do have other nifty novelties that makes ordering a breeze.

eMenus are taking the dining scene in Singapore by storm – it’s now possible to order everything you need without even speaking to another human. Besides, we know exactly how hard it is to get a waiter’s attention on a busy evening!


7. Supermarket object scanner



What it is in one line: A cash register technology that recognises objects instead of barcodes.

When you buy fresh produce at the supermarket, you’ve to go through the process of putting them in plastic bags, weighing them, getting the bag labelled… frankly, it’s a chore. If we could bypass this step, the queues at Fairprice will surely move along more quickly!

Toshiba has invented a scanner that can identify supermarket items purely by their shape, colour and pattern. It’s capable of telling a Fuji apple from a Jonagold apple, which is impressive because they look exactly the same to me.


8. Mechanised Sushi-Plate Clearing System



What it is in one line: A slot that transports empty round sushi plates directly to the stewarding area for a less cluttered dining experience.

When I’m having a sushi buffet with my friends, the plates get stacked fast and high. Sometimes I see twin towers that I fear will topple on my head before the staff has time to clear them.

That’s not going to be a problem with this mechanised sushi-plate clearing system at Genki Sushi. Yes, we have this in Singapore already, but we need it in more places. Without the visual reminder, I can do away with the guilt of inhaling an entire restaurant’s stock of salmon sushi.


9. Robocars



What it is in one line: Driverless taxis that replace the need and fuss of operating personal vehicles.

Imagine flagging down a cab, and it pulls up at the kerb..without a driver. In Japan, Robocars are being tested on the roads for ferrying athletes during the Olympics, or helping senior citizens get around. Given our ageing population, this could be the next big thing to hit our roads.

It could also up our productivity – we could take calls, do work, or catch up on much-needed sleep while on the go. Heck, you could even ask your girlfriend to marry you as you speed along Robertson Quay. Still a better proposal than “want to BTO with me?”.

P.S.: Robocars are being tested on our sunny island right now, by the Singapore-MIT Alliance for Research and Technology, so this may be a reality sooner than we think.


10. Self-service Kiosks



What it is one line: Automated machine where diners can order food, pay for their purchase, and collect the meal coupon before entering the restaurant.

While the Japanese ramen chain Ichiran is widely famed for the ramen, the novel dining experience is just as worthy of mention. They’ve got the concept of self-service down to an art. You order, pay, present your meal coupon and have your meal in a cubicle like that:


There’s practically zero human interaction, but it’s efficient, like all things Japanese.

Singapore has caught up in this aspect – you can find self-service kiosks in not only fast food restaurants, but at kopitiams too. You can now customize the most sinful McDonald’s burger possible, or have your change dispensed by a machine at Fei Siong Fishball Noodle stall.


Not only does it speed up the process of getting your food, it’s also more hygienic as the staff don’t have to handle cash. The use of self-service kiosks also reduce the chances of your order getting mixed up, making for a smoother dining experience!


Technology marches on


While holographic menus and robot chefs remain fairly distant, we have our fair share of cool inventions that help us everyday. Today, automated reservation machines at crowded cafes have made long queues unnecessary. All we gotta do is wait for a phone call to tell us our table’s ready!

As our lives get busier, robots and iPads and automated machines will become increasingly prevalent. If you can’t beat tech, why not embrace it? With technology, society can better manage problems like space constraints and labour crunch in the F&B and retail sectors. The possibilities are endless.

Before you know it, we could even be riding hoverboards to work every morning.


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